Maurice Benard welcomed one of daytime’s finest on his video podcast, State Of Mind – the iconic Leslie Charleson, who portrays fan-favorite Dr. Monica Quartermaine on General Hospital. With a nod to the Tom Hanks classic, Forrest Gump…this episode was like a box of chocolates. A question would lead to surprising answers, which would open the door to more. You might be surprised at what you might get.
Leslie Charleson: Peeling Back The Layers
State Of Mind marked the first time these two GH cast members had an intimate sit-down. Maurice Benard jumped right in with an introduction, “This is truly an honor. What can I say about Leslie? Four-time Emmy nominated, should have been 10 times.” He earnestly added, “I think that Stuart Damon [gets choked up] was the King, and she is the Queen [of daytime].” But the two actors would tackle her late co-star, who played her partner on the show for more than 35 years, later in the episode.
First, Benard wanted to know more about her childhood and personal history. And that led to her own connection with mental illness and peeling back the darkness to get to the light.
*Trigger Warning: The following subject matter contains references to Suicide and Suicide Ideation.
Charleson revealed, “My sister [Kate] was bipolar, and she committed suicide in 1996. It was a tough time. We didn’t know what it was about at all. In fact, I had bailed her out of jail. I had checked her into St. John’s. I had reluctantly done a lot of things, and she made me mad, too. She would call all of the time and just keep calling. When we were together, she would just come into the bedroom and just talk. At three in the morning.”
Benard acknowledged, “That was the mania.”
“That was the highs,” Charleson agreed. “And then I wouldn’t see her for a long time. And, actually, when it happened, I had stopped answering the phone.” The daytime veteran explained, “She would just keep calling and calling. And I had to work. I remember that I went home at lunch, and I pushed the button for voicemail messages, and there was something in her tone. She just said that she was so tired…[Charleson got emotional] to take care of her cats. And that it wasn’t my fault.”
“I went back to work, but I didn’t last for long because I just knew that this time something was wrong, was really wrong,” she continued. “I just remember that I had to get out of work early. And she had an apartment right here. I went over, and she didn’t answer. She lived on the first floor. I went over to the window, and she had hung herself. She was only 43.”
“What you are doing right now, what you are saying right now, is going to help so many people,” Benard replied.
Charleson countered, “You’re the lucky one that wanted help. She refused it. Denied it. It was just a spiral.”
Remember Stuart Damon And More
During the daytime heyday, when soap operas covered weather machines, aliens, multiple personalities, and angel visitations, General Hospital rolled out a breast cancer storyline that involved a couple – telling her side and the husband’s side of battling the disease. Leslie Charleson and Stuart Damon were all in!
“It was all women,” Charleson explained. “We had a woman head writer, a woman producer, and all had been affected by breast cancer, including me. My mother had breast cancer. One of the times I had been nominated for an Emmy, one was for that [storyline]. I was flying back East three times a week because she was quite ill at the time.”
Charleson talked about how the fans reacted, “I would go out, and Stuart would go out, they would say, ‘now my husband knows what I am doing.’ We wanted to be honest. This was something that it took a special interest in and concentrated effort to make sure that it was done properly.”
Reminiscing about Damon, she added, “He loved being there. He loved the show. It was his playground. I think it was his wife that said that I was his daytime wife, and she got him at night.”
There were so many juicy morsels of information in this episode, you might think Benard may have planned to release it for fans the day before Valentine’s Day on purpose. Regardless, fans of Charleson will hang on every word as she talks about growing up in Kansa City, Missouri, for “about 20 minutes,” coming to terms with her unusual birth name, living with her grandparents for about seven years, trying to bond with her stepfather, and later with her stepsister and brother.
Classic television and movie fans won’t want to miss her stories of being Ron Howard’s first TV kiss on Happy Days, working in amazing locations with such greats as Shelley Winters, Robert Conrad, William Conrad, Buddy Epsen, Michael Douglas, and Stuart Whitman.
GH fans will adore the inside information like the scoop of replacing the ‘old’ Monica in August 1977 – on the day Elvis Presley died, backstage antics over the years, auditioning Stuart Damon, and a special nod to Doug Marland for creating the rich, dysfunctional, and funny Quartermaine dynasty.
If that isn’t enough…the dynamic duo spoke on the importance of animals to your mental well-being and health, the difficulties of hugging, bonding, and Benard even admits to being intimidated by Charleson, until recently. A wonderful gift of the unexpected. For the entire episode, click here.
General Hospital (GH) airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Port Charles, check out all the latest that’s been posted on General Hospital spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.
Before the Super Bowl today on @mbstateofmind I’m joined by Leslie Charleson.
— Maurice Benard (@MauriceBenard) February 13, 2022
— Lydia (@LitLat) February 13, 2022
– If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.
– If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255).
– If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.